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Learning a little a bit of many languages
Home > Guide > Tips & Tricks > Wanderlust

“Diabolo. Sputa, sputa! Thank you.”
Brother Salvatore
Don’t be like Brother Salvatore in The Name of the Rose, who ‘speaks all languages and none’. Hear Brother Salvatore : salvatore.mp3 (1282 Kb).
Language lovers are sooner or later all stricken by ‘language wanderlust’, the overwhelming impulse of wanting to learn another language. There is nothing wrong with being curious about several languages, but you should make it clear to yourself when you are merely ‘flirting’ with a language and when you are actually working towards fluency.

Language wanderlust can strike you when you are about to 'finish' a language. You'll fee a strong urge to move to another language. If you do not keep this impulse under control, you might end up knowing a little a bit of many languages but never achieve real fluency in any .

When you buy a grammar book for Georgian or Romanian, make sure you tell yourself loud and clear 'First I will finish learning Spanish - this is just to satisfy my curiosity for other languages'. If you do a few lessons of Pimsleur Czech for fun, make sure you are clear about why you do this - I want to see what Czech sounds like and how close it is to Russian. Don't get carried away and do an entire volume of Pimsleur Czech while you are only half way through Russian.

Before you start on a language, a good practice is to set clear goals for the time you will spend studying. Where do you want to be after 500 hours of study? Do you want to be functionally fluent in your target language or do you just want to learn how to do small talk in a few languages?

If what you want is fluency in a specific language, don’t fool yourself. You won’t learn any one language properly if you keep going from one to the other. All you will achieve is confusion and waste your energy on chasing too many birds simultaneously. Even if you are very smart, the language you study very easy and you use the very best language program there is, learning a new language requires a large amount of energy over a long period of time. Even for a very easy language, you need several hundreds hours of hard work to speak it correctly. Don’t waste your time in studying a bit of this and a bit of that, thinking in the end you might learn how to speak them all. Focus on one language, take it to the end, then move to the next one.

There is nothing wrong with getting interested with a few different languages. You may buy a couple grammar books or even try a few tapes to see how they sound and how much you can already understand. But be clear with yourself that you are only flirting with those languages, not actually learning them.

And no, learning two languages at the same time is usually not a good idea.

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